What to expect from the Jan. 31 FEC filing deadline

(Photo credit: Ervins Strauhmanis/Flickr)

This Sunday is the deadline for campaigns and PACs to file their next FEC report, with fundraising and spending numbers covering July 1 through Dec. 31, 2015. This is the first time we’ve seen numbers from super PACs since June, and a lot has happened since then. We’ll be using our Real-Time Influence Explorer to keep track of the filings as they come in, tweeting out interesting and noteworthy insights on Twitter — follow along!

Here’s a quick rundown of what we can expect from the filing deadline, and some of the things we’ll be looking out for:

  1. How much did Right to Rise raise in the last six months? Right to Rise, Jeb Bush’s super PAC, made headlines in June last year when it announced it had raised $103 million, making it the biggest super PAC in the race by far. But we know the story of the second half of 2015: Donald Trump entered the race and quickly came to dominate it, and Bush fell from first to fifth or lower in national polls and in early primary states. With this collapse came, reportedly, a loss of his fundraising power. The Washington Post reported in December that Right to Rise had only raised $13 million in the second half of 2015, around 13 percent of what they had raised in the first half of the year, though Post also reported they expected to have raised around $20 million by the end of the year. It’ll be interesting to see how accurate that report was.
  2. Just what has Right to Rise been spending all that money on? Even if Right to Rise only raised $20 million in the second half of 2015, that’s still $120 million overall. And we know they’ve made $63.8 million in independent expenditures so far — more than any other super PAC — but only about half of that total. What’s happening to the rest of that money? How much is Mike Murphy, who is reportedly drawing criticism from top donors, being paid by the super PAC?
  3. How much cash on hand do campaigns and super PACs have? Beyond Right to Rise, we’re also going to be paying attention to how much cash on hand the various super PACs and campaigns have, as the primaries begin. One campaign we’ll definitely be looking at is Carly Fiorina’s. On Thursday, she claimed her campaign was willing to give $2 million to veterans if Donald Trump would attend the GOP debate. We’ll make sure to check and see if Fiorina had the cash on hand necessary to support this claim.
  4. What happened to the super PACs associated with candidates who dropped out? Since the presidential race began, a few candidates have exited the contest. Lindsey Graham and George Pataki dropped out in December, and Bobby Jindal dropped out in November. What’s happened to the money in their super PACs?
  5. Is Donald Trump really funding his own campaign? It’s been clear for a while that Donald Trump’s claim that he’s self-funding his campaign is at best a bit of a stretch. The last FEC filing in September revealed that most of his money comes from donors, though he did make a large loan to the campaign and donated in-kind resources like rent. But as recently as January 27, Trump released a Facebook video claiming he’s “totally self-funding his own campaign.” We’ll be looking to see how true this is.
  6. What’s the state of outside spending on the Democratic side? We know that Bernie Sanders doesn’t have an affiliated super PAC, but he has been benefitting from independent expenditures made by the nurses’ union super PAC. The New York Times reported yesterday that Bernie has in fact been the “top beneficiary” of outside spending among Democrats, though that assessment been challenged. The numbers we get on Sunday should give a broader picture, because we’ll get figures for all spending, not just independent expenditures (things like ads and direct mail). We’re also interested to see the finances of the pro-Clinton super PAC Correct the Record — the group had only existed for a month or so before the last filing, and in that time they received $275,615 from the Clinton campaign itself. Has the campaign given them any more cash? And what are they spending it on?

If you’re going to join us in combing through the reports this Sunday — be sure to follow Sunlighters Melissa Yeager, Josh Stewart and Jenn Topper on Twitter — you can use our list of the candidates and their associated super PACs to keep track. If you’d like to dig through the filings yourself, check out this handy tutorial on how to effectively use our Real-Time Influence Explorer to sift through the data.